Salted Caramel Brownies

Nigella Lawson, once purred these famous words -Salted caramel is the Class A drug of the confectionary world! How true, ah how true! One lick of the spoon and you are transported to a heady world of sheer bliss and pleasure. Like a stalker’s obsession, you want more and more but are more likely to swing between the yo-yo of self denial and graceful glorious acceptance. I, for once, would want to wallow in it, not just experience it, but wallow in the sheer gorgeousness of the smooth golden molten and utterly indescribably beguiling liquid flowing down my throat and straight to my heart…..ah, well, to the coronaries as well but who cares…..a year less than 90 with caramel is acceptable, isn’t it!!!

Anyway, enough of salivating and drooling, lets get down to the facts…. mix together chocolate, butter, sugar, etc etc or just get a cheap help ( aka kids bribed with pocket money or emotional stale Bollywood maa dialogues!) and viola, welcome to sugar heaven…..

Rhea made these as there is no way I can follow recipes with measurements…..http://www.foodnetwork.co.uk/recipes/salted-caramel-brownies.html?utm_source=foodnetwork.com&utm_medium=domestic

Warning – post lunch, post shower, post exercise ingestion on a sunny day can lead to prolonged periods of inactivity.

New year 2020 park run

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very park run has a story, in fact, every run has a story.
For years, I used to dread saturdays, dragging myself groggy and puffy eyed , a bag of nerves, shifting uneasy glances at the lithe fluidity with which runners passed me by, feeling like a turtle stampeding through peanut butter! 4 years down the line, and here I am, dragging others to the start line, feeling the perverse pleasure of lifting someone from their warm bed into the chilly cold park run !!
For years I have wondered why people flock together to do the park run. its only a 5k, some would say, its too crowded, its too early, we feel we are very slow….. but what they realise only after attending a few is that the only person you compete with is yourself. You instantly become part of a running family and start adoring your fellow runners.
Today I ran with so many inspirational folks…
Today I ran with Priyanka, who sorted her babies before rushing to the run.
Today I ran with Aditi, who came all the way from Harborne, just because she had given me her word that we would start the new year run together.
Today I ran with my running club buddies including my crazy Ann Spencer, who has become part of me in the last few years and continues to inspire me with her antics.
Today I ran with Vijay and Viji, the first runner amongst us and who (in the words of Prashant) ran even before running became fashionable!
Today I ran with Subhash , who instilled the discipline of running in me.
But most of all, today I ran with Ram, something I never imagined would happen and boy, I am so so glad it did. Now we can talk about household chores and finances even while running 😛😛😛

In essence, you don’t need to run for speed or accolades. A mile whether done in 4 minutes or 14 needs the same effort from different groups. What counts is that you were at the start line….. there is always time to be at the start line. You just need to start …..

2020 is that year

Cheesecake

Cheesecake is a slice of heaven. There is a common sight when someone puts a spoon of cheesecake in their mouth. They close their eyes, lips curl into smile , a halo surrounds them and all you hear is mmmmmm…..tell me thats not right :))))

I have longed to make a baked cheesecake but being a stickler for NOT following rules and measurements, I had always avoided the painstakingly long process till I was forced to, purely in an effort to defeat the forces that were trying to make it not happen…..the first effort failed as the entire waterbath toppled in the oven ( well, i cleaned the oven instead). I tried again and conveniently forgot the time and ended up with charred cheesecake ( not recomended) 🙂 , so finally, it dawned that fate was fighting against my efforts and decided to do it once more. Yet again, I marched to the shops, got the ingredients and hey presto, it worked. Never been so happy with any of my desserts…..Its fresh, soft and delicious. Try it and you will not make anything else again.

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Crust Ingredients:

1 ½ cups graham cracker crumbs

¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/3 cup melted margarine

Filling Ingredients:

900 gm ( 3 tubs ). cream cheese

1 ¼ cups granulated sugar

½ cup sour cream

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

5 eggs

Topping Ingredients:

½ cup sour cream

2 teaspoons granulated sugar

Canned whipped cream (optional)

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Place a large pan or oven-safe skillet
(that the cheesecake pan will fit inside) filled with about ½-inch of
water into the oven while it preheats. This will be your water bath.

2. Combine 1 ½ cups graham cracker crumbs and ¼ teaspoon cinnamon into
a medium bowl. Mix in 1/3 cup melted margarine. Press the crumb into a
9-inch spring form pan that has been lined on the bottom and side with
parchment paper. Use the bottom of a drinking glass to press the crumb
mixture into the bottom of the pan and about 2/3 the way up the side.
Wrap a large piece of foil around the bottom of the pan to keep the
cheesecake dry when placed in the water bath in the oven. Put the
crust in your freezer until the filling is done.

3. Use an electric mixer to combine the cream cheese with sugar, sour
cream, and vanilla. Blend mixture for a couple of minutes or until the
ingredients are smooth and creamy. Be sure to scrape down the sides of
the bowl. Whisk the eggs in a medium bowl and then add them to the
cream cheese mixture. Blend the mixture just enough to integrate the
eggs.

4. Remove the crust from the freezer and pour the filling into it.

5. Carefully place the cheesecake into the preheated water bath. Bake
for 12 minutes at 475 degrees, then turn the oven down to 350 degrees
and bake for 50 to 60 minutes or until the top of the cheesecake turns
a light brown or tan color. Remove the cheesecake from the oven to
cool.

6. When the cheesecake has cooled, combine ½ cup sour cream and 2
teaspoons sugar. Spread the sweetened sour cream over the entire top
surface of the cheesecake. Cover and chill the cheesecake in the
refrigerator for at least 4 hours. To serve, slice the cheesecake into
12 equal portions. Apply a pile of canned whipped cream to the top of
each slice and serve. Makes 12 servings.

nigella
for the base
150 grams digestive biscuits
75 grams unsalted butter (melted or very soft)
600 grams cream cheese
150 grams caster sugar
3 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
1 ½ tablespoons lemon juice
for the topping
145 ml sour cream
1 tablespoon caster sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

CAKE
Method

Process the biscuits until they are like crumbs, then add the butter
and pulse again. Line the bottom of a 20cm / 8 inch springform tin,
pressing the biscuits in with your hands or the back of a spoon. Put
the tin in the fridge to set, and preheat the oven to 180ºC/gas mark
4/350ºF.
Beat the cream cheese gently until it’s smooth, then add the sugar.
Beat in the eggs and egg yolks, then finally the vanilla and lemon
juice. Put the kettle on.
Line the outside of the chilled tin with strong foil so that it covers
the bottom and sides in one large piece, and then do the same again
and put it into a roasting dish. This will protect the cheesecake from
the water as it is cooked in its water bath.
Pour the cream-cheese filling into the chilled biscuit base, and then
pour hot water from the recently boiled kettle into the roasting tin
around the cheesecake. It should come about halfway up; don’t overfill
as it will be difficult to lift up the tin. Put it into the oven and
cook for 50 minutes. It should feel set, but not rigidly so: you just
need to feel confident that when you pour the sour cream over, it will
sit on the surface and not sink in. Whisk together the sour cream,
sugar and vanilla for the topping and pour over the cheesecake. Put it
back in the oven for a further 10 minutes.
Take the roasting tin out of the oven, then gingerly remove the
Springform, unwrap it and stand it on a rack to cool. When it’s cooled
down completely, put it in the fridge, removing it 20 minutes before
eating to take the chill off. Unmould and when you cut into it, plunge
a knife in hot water first.

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Ski 2019- to ski or not to ski

Skiing holidays- the chance to spend a week escaping the relentless wheel of mundane existence by transforming into this super cool girl exuding positive vibes, zipping past upturned skis, long golden tresses flying impressively in the air…… nahhh, what am I talking about!!!

In my case, even after many ski vacations, it is still construed as throwing myself down the side of a mountain over and over again, with bruises on the rearside the size of apples and pears and of course, totally bashed egos 😂😂😂
Dressed up like a puffy penguin, I still dream of a day when I would stand next to the svelte leggy Russian blondes (sans their bald, paunchy owners!) resplendent in shiny onesies and fur hats. No ugly black helmets for them, oh noooo….. 🙄🙄

The ski lifts, espc the button lifts, still scare me and so do the train of ducklings that glide past emerging into swans at the end of the week while I still pizza my way down, butt high up in the air, elbows and ski poles outstretched, ready to spear the unsuspecting snowboarder behind me !!

But skiing holidays are not all that bad……. it amounts to hundreds of funny stories that my kids narrate year after year, of mum being the perennial tumbling clown on the slopes, long nights of wine and cheese, waking up to snow covered roofs with white smoke billowing out of chimneys and to the smell of fresh baguettes.
Take me to the slopes again……

The romance of kappa meen curry

Of the many things that can get a malayalee dewy eyed, puyungiya kappa with meen curry ( boiled tapioca and fish curry) comes in the top 5 !

My association with kappa ( tapioca) dates back to childhood when jute bags filled with this root accompanied us back after summer holidays in Kerala and proudly occupied a place of pride in the corner of our kitchen in Nagpur.

I never liked it then but as years passed, these became part of those precious treasures that I wanted desperately preserve desperately as part of my identity.

Kappa meen curry is served everywhere in Kerala, from ancestral homes to toddy shops and is eaten with gusto by rich and poor alike.

We get frozen tapioca in the local supermarket and they are equally good.

Recipe-

Frozen tapioca ( from Asian shop)

Place in a pressure cooker with 1/2 tsp haldi and salt to taste. Cook till very soft

.
Grind coconut 1/2 , jeera 1/2 tsp, lasun 3, haldi pd, chilly pd to a silky smooth paste.
Add to the cooked tapioca and mash well.

Fish curry
Grind to a smooth paste- coconut 1/2, roasted dhania seeds 4tbsp, haldi, mirchi pd.
Cut raw mango and fish pieces.
Mix all together and cook on low flame with water.
Add curry leaves, slit green chillies, salt to taste.

Serve hot or cold

Amsterdam marathon- 2 weeks to go

Groaaan , I can’t do it today because my Garmin is dead…. and Strava too 😋

And so it started with 101 reasons to actually not do the long run , including its too early, too wet, too cold, too little time, Romeo needs me, etc etc. I snuggled deeper into my duvet only to be unceremoniously kicked out by hubby who by now knew very well the consequences of my missing this long run!

Miles 1-3 :
Dreams, dreams, big dreams….
First 3 miles were pretty uneventful and steady. My brain was on overdrive.. I was the queen runner and everyone was admiring my long strides, while in reality, I was still the curvy aunty next door trudging along, avoiding the sympathetic glances thrown by amused passer-bys. I realised that my head was actually so stuffed with my plans that by mile 5, I was getting tired of it.

Mile 3-6 :
Excuses – the hallmark of a wannabe runner
So the excuses manual came out and before I knew it, I had run 3 more miles conjuring up more excuses than a teen would come up with to avoid cleaning her room! The best so far was the thought of going back home for a trip to the loo even though i didn’t feel like it. Maternal instinct kicks in big time and so does the good wife manual. But i had to keep running…..

Mile 6-9
This was my favourite part, the therapeutic part!. Here, even my traditional, conservative south Indian upbringing failed to hold back the slew of choicest swear words in Hindi and sometimes English, but mainly Hindi! In fact, this sport actually opened the doors of my repressed memory as far as swearing was concerned. Thode ch, bh, su, ha jaise shudh vyakhyaay muh se girte hi dil ko itni thandak pahunchti hai, kya batayein…..😎😎

Mile 9-12 – The mirage
Now satisfied, the sounds in my head started fading away and the running continued. Soon, by mile 13, the sounds disappeared and I was surrounded by an eiree calm. I was floating away, no idea where and when.

Mile 13-16
When are we getting there…….
After that started the downhill. Not that I was tired but was bored. The rain and cold didn’t help either. Suddenly I spotted Romeo bounding towards me, his wonky , lopsided tongue flying in the air….. Ram’s appearance gave me a few minutes of peace and company for a mile. My mind wavered again with the thought of returning home with a rather drenched, dirty and smelly dog but I kept running. I was bored. I missed my running partner, I wished I had company. A trio running rather slowly in front of me now seemed like sprinters.
I was slowing down…

Mile 16-20 –
The dementors
My hair was wet, back sore , nipples chafed and legs hurting. The last 4 miles were painful but somehow i had to move on. The image of a nice warm car played havoc in my brain . I realised i was smiling, though it looked like a grimace, at anyone carrying a phone. The final mile home was the longest and I had to conjure up all the happy memories to slay that last dementor.

I was dragging myself up the driveway of a white washed house, the landing strewn with shoes of various shapes and sizes, the appetizing smell of food wafting through the chimney, the muffled sound of a dog in the distance. The door opened and Dad smiled……. i was actually home and this time it was for real.

A sign in the form of a card was waiting for me, as if someone was watching over me, my guardian angel, the third bird of my tattoo, Seema….. it was a sign indeed.
The sounds in my mind loud again , asking why, why, why do I do it…….. and I smiled and asked why not 🙂

Sa Calobra Ride

Sa colabra is a beast, a sinously laid out serpent, gliding its way lazily to the top and gracefully flowing back down to the sea. Built in 1932 by Antonio Paretti, it is stark and beautiful and a favourite among cyclists. Though not as challenging as the Italian dolomites or French Alp D’huez, it has its own 28 hair pin bends and spine tingling descent which make it a must-do on a trip to Majorca.

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We started the climb early morning at 8am to avoid the traffic and parked the car at the base. The first part of the climb is fairly pleasant at around 6% incline and having gained a few minutes head start ( whining always helps!) I was happily chugging along listening to each and every chatter of Mother Nature.Warming up, the roads started bending more frequently and views started changing, each more spectacular than the next. The familiar sight of my men soothed the slight ache in my shoulders and I relaxed.

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For some time, my fears and attention was diverted by the stunning pine forests to the narrow steep gorges to the barren rock outcrops with their bizarre formations but after a few kilometers of solitude, I longed for the sight of the summit, eyes hunting up towards the distance for the first clue, following the road perimeters as much as it could see.

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A narrow pass loomed ahead and my insecurities were dashed by another cyclist who disappeared through it with utmost grace and familiarity!

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A few more bends later, the inclines started becoming steeper. I could see the father-son duo in the distance bridging the gap between us.

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The inclines peaked at the end to well over 10% and i could feel the familiar jelly like sensation in my calves and fire burning in my things. I dug my cleats in and after grinding through the final incline,  I was at the top of coll des Reiss at 682m which is cut through the rock , framing grand views of Nus de sa Corbata Sa Calobra (Tie Knot).

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The customary photos later, we relaxed and took our time to descend and soak in the blissful surroundings.

Magical hills rolling into the sea into the distance. Looking down at the landscape, the enormity of the climb humbled us.

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The next couple of hours, driving back, everything had changed drastically. The road, which was empty a couple of hours earlier, was thronging with cars and buses with cyclists dangerously weaving in a out. We hastily beat a retreat.

Sa Calobra, we will be back again…..

London Marathon 2017: A dream we dared to dream

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40 years ago, London was just a name in fairy tales and nursery rhymes.
30 years ago, the same London turned into a fantasy place, where I would often escape into, mingling with statuesque regalia.
20 years ago, London was real, in all its glory, flesh and sweat as I toured around for the first time, super excited, wide eyed, taking in all the monuments which I had read and re-read to the minutest detail.
I was in London!!
10 years ago, London was in me. Living, working, partying- I was actually living the dream. Breathing the crisp air, swing in my step, and music to my ears at each bend.
1 year ago, I visited London in a new light, something I had never in my wildest dreams imagined possible.

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THE LONDON MARATHON –
The Mecca of Marathoners worldwide
A new entrant to the world of running, I would listen to all that the runners had to share, hungrily gulping each and every bit of information thrown my way in running clubs, magazines, internet and even random gossip sessions with those who had never run before! Friends from the K&D Running club swore by it. They all unanimously said that London marathon was an event to be experienced. We had to do it!!! Call it naive or foolish, having crossed the finish line of the Paris marathon just 2 weeks ago, we were ready!! 

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So as usual, ready and armed to the teeth with a plethora of information and anticipation, we jetted off to London. The expo was as amazing as expected. The customary fun and photo shoots followed and the rest of the evening was a breeze, pampered by Neha and Gaurav in their swanky Canary Wharf pad.

 

SUNDAY – THE D-DAY

THE LONDON EXPRESSS

Sunday morning saw 2 warriors on a mission, flanked by an army of loyal supporters. Hubby pampered me till I had to tell him off and kids were unusually kind. As soon as we reached the station, the enormity of the event struck me, full on. Out in front, was a sea of bobbing heads, runners and supporters, family and friends, lovers and children, a whole big community which had united for a purpose, whether be it to raise funds, to make a difference or just for personal strength.

 


I spotted Mr Potato Head pushing his way past a group of teenagers, Spiderman, hastily adjusting his chafing bits ( or should I say bobs ) , Stegosaurus trying to re-attach one of his spines while a nun puffed away at an E-cig, one leg resting upon a Pirate! There were others too caught up in their own world. A weather-beaten face who looked as if this was his umpteenth marathon sat eyeing the shoes of a stressed first timer, a kind dad accompanying his nervous daughter and a couple tied at the wrist, obviously very much in love with each other to notice anything around them. Prashant hopped over, as beaming as ever and soon, we were off.

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Settling in our pens, we went over the plan again. The first half to be run in a relaxed manner and to stay steady and strong. Luggage deposition area was incredibly smooth and amazing, excellent organisation. The bags were deposited in alphabetical order of our names in open trucks and we stood, soaking in the atmosphere, still in disbelief that we were actually doing the London marathon.
The first few steps, through the rough dirt path was crowded but resounded with screams of ‘go for it’, ‘you can do it’ , ‘go go go’…..We were flying.

MILES 1-5 : THE HAPPY MILES
We ran, happily chatting away on the incredibly crowded dirt path, Subhash stately and elegant and me, the bulky rugby player lookalike dodging the arms and legs coming my way. The 5k mark passed by quickly and I could see the novices stopping at the first sight of the water stations for their drinks, their faces flush with excitement. The couple who were tied at the wrist zoomed past, happily. I smiled at my fellow runners, picked up conversations with random strangers named Zoe and Fiona. All was well.

MILES 6-10 : THE CRUISING MILES
Mile 6 arrived and like clockwork, Subhash stopped and handed me a gel. I was too excited to have one but decided not to protest for the fear of causing distress to the ‘plan’! We seemed to be cruising along the serpentine lanes of London Docks, weary looking hamlets and non descript streets with their jaded shop facades. The thronging crowds cheered with increasing crescendo at each turn. By the end of mile 10, the first signs of tiredness crept in, the emotional high and excitement of the crowds adding to the claustrophobia.

MILES 11-15

THE DEMENTORS
By mile 11, I prayed for silence and magically the crowds thinned and their roars sounded distant. I was swaying and moving to the muffled beats of music in the far distance melting away my resolve. I started slowing down, invisible hands pulling me behind! Jolting free grfr the spell, i realised that it was fatigue thatthat making me delirious and so early on , it was not a good sign. It was only mile 13 and Subhash quickly forced another gel into my mouth. Soon enough, the shouts and roars came back again! We were running now along the smooth tarmac of Canary Wharf, our reflections unreal on the glass buildings on both sides of the road.

MILES 16-20

ARE WE THERE YET?
Fatigue was playing catch with me and I was busy trying to think of reasons to stop, to get a breath of fresh air and to shake Subhash off my trail so that he would go and finish the 26.2 miles on his own. My chimp told me to fake an injury but that was not to be! I longed to see the faces of our cheerleaders so that we would stop for a few selfies, but they seemed to have disappeared into the gallows of London dungeons. I even though of disappearing suddenly into the crowds only to realise that they would probably push me back again. Then I remembered Lisa Walker’s words- ‘when you feel like quitting, look down at your bib and remind yourself of why you are here in the first place! and so I carried on, grudgingly but carried on.
My speed kept varying but Subhash kept moving and appeared stronger and stronger as the miles passed by. Ever so often, Ram, Rashmi and Neha with the kids would pop by, shouting and screaming away, giving me the precious gulps of water and fresh air. I clung on to Ram, not wanting to let go of him, wishing that he would whisk me away to the warm snug comfort of home.

 


Soon we were on Tower Bridge and that moment was what I had been waiting for. I don’t think i can ever forget that point in time when halfway along the bridge, I burst out in tears, emotional and happy. That overwhelming feeling that I had bundled up in my heart, burst its banks and I was crying and smiling at the same time. A camera popped up in the distance and immediately, I wiped my eyes, put on my best smile and sprinted towards it, chest out and strong. I was the only marathoner in the world on that majestic bridge and I was there to prove it. That I can run! And that I did run!
That’s the moment when you actually realise that it doesn’t matter if you finish in 2 hours or in 6 hours. you are a marathon runner, you have done the distance, something that the hundreds of thousands of people thronging the streets could not do. You are already the winner!

MILES 20-26

EXPECTO PATRONUM
These happy thought immediately dispersed into thick air. A big booming voice in my head screamed at me to stop. It seemed to seize my ankles and I shuffled to a stop, bent over in agony, by the side of the road. I buckled to my knees and knew that I had hit THE WALL. The screaming group of onlookers suddenly fell silent. A hand pushed a bottle of water near my face, a toddler reached out with a fistful of jelly beans while a soft voice murmured ‘Smita, you are nearly there, just breathe…’. Tears welling up in my eyes, I turned around , defeatedly to Subhash, calm and composed. He held out his hand and said ‘ lets go, the end is just around the corner’…. Flashbacks of the past came flooding through. I thought of all our training runs, the fights, the little victories, of my kids who were so proud of their mum and of all happy moments sacrificed for training. It was as if I just had to get past the demons that were pulling me back to take charge of my life.. I took a deep breath and charged ahead, the crowd behind us erupting in joy and shouting out our names!

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We continued from there, the crowds roaring becoming louder than ever. The sights of London came into view and we bundled past the West Bank and the river Thames when I saw it. The sign that I had been waiting for from the start! 2 miles to go. With renewed energy, we pushed ahead and suddenly in the distance, I heard my name being called out, a familiar voice that I could recognise anywhere and even in my deepest slumber. I thought I was confabulating again when I saw her, the most divine sight, mommy! There she was, a 5 foot formidable powerhouse, eyes ablaze with pride, pushing her way to the front of the crowds. My entire resolve and steel crumbled and I hobbled towards her, sobbing all the way. I just wanted to dissolve into her arms, to be hugged and comforted by her. I didn’t want to cross the finish line, I just wanted my mother….Subhash sensing the trouble ahead, suddenly dragged me back and pushed me forth, muttering ‘lets finish the race first, we are there……

MILES 26-26.2

THE GLORY and VICTORY

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Rightly so, ahead was the FINISH banner. The rest of the distance was in slow motion. I was gliding and floating along , in no hurry or concern, towards the finish line. We stepped over the finish line, together and I knew that instant that i would never have had done it without Subhash, yet again. We staggered towards a bench and collapsed in a heap next to a First Aid station, smiling at the blue sky above us, taking stock of the runners sauntering across and the drums int he background. A few moments later, we were handed over our medals by the wonderful volunteers. The genuine smile and joy on their faces made all the difference. A volunteer hugged me and said that she was very proud of me. I believed her. What happened next was a blur, gliding down towards the exit in a trance, feeling the pride in the air, all victorious and emotional. I kept clutching the medal, not believing that it was real…..fearing that i would wake up from this dream.

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My dream had come true.

I was a marathoner, once again…… I was the lucky few to have had the good fortune to run the London MArathon.

ALL ROADS LEAD TO ROME

According to Phillip Schaff, the phrase  ” All roads lead to Rome” is a reference to the Milliarium Aureum – a marble structure speculated to be the base of the milestone  in the Roman Forum, the specific point to which all roads were said to lead.

After attempting the Paris Marathon twice and the ‘bucket list’ London Marathon last year , Rome was naturally the next favoured in the quest for more marathon medal glory. Excitedly, we booked our places in the euphoria and invincible post marathon stupor.

Training started in ernest and soon Strava and Garmin became my best friends. Each morning started with updating new stats of my ‘fellow’ runners and evenings were a blur discussing strategies for the next week. I flew higher and higher as the days, weeks and months passed, watching my beloved Garmin track my speed as it improved to below two digit figures. Soon, I was comfortable running 10k in less than an hour ( used to take 70 minutes or more a year ago). In a span of 8 months, from an average of 11, I could navigate sub 10 comfortably.

But alas, like all things, the higher you go, the harder you fall…..that was so true.

12 weeks to go – Jan 28, 2018

We were on our long run, a 12 mile steady trot, steady pace, easy breathing. Floating amidst the bright blue sky and fluffy candy white clouds, i had no care in the world and absolutely no idea of what was coming the next day. 12 miles – 2:02:40 – 10.13/mile pace.

Monday, the next day was the club training run. I knew that I was not prepared for it but greed took over. Within minutes, there was an excruciating pain in my right heel and it was difficult for me to run without wincing every few steps. I was reduced to a miserable hop and my old arch enemy, plantar fasciitis was back with a vengeance.

11-8 weeks to go –

3 weeks of total absence from running was more painful than the physical pain in my foot. When I slowly started, the toughness and tiredness struck , leaving me in tears once again. But I didn’t give up. The next 3 weeks were the most agonizing weeks of my life. Walking was painful and running was out of question. I thought that it would improve in a week, but it didn’t….a week, 2 weeks and in the third week, I ambushed a physio colleague in our car park. He introduced me to John, another physiotherapist, the angel in disguise who tolerated my tantrums and tears. He assured me that running would improve and that i needed patience. Moreover he got insoles for my shoes, and it was as if I had to start learning to walk again, that too on stone hard surface! Slowly I ‘broke’ into those insoles and did a run, gingerly, after 4 weeks! Gone were the days of long runs, here i was just trying to run! Took it gentle and slow, but felt alive!  64 min – 6.2mi – 10.24/mile

8 – 4 weeks to go – 

Weeks rolled by and I continued running through the pain, hating it most of the times, sometimes with tears, with fears. But one thing i knew was that running was there to stay….. and so i ran. I limped through ice and snow, through gravel and sand, through howling winds and sleet. My speed slumped further to an all time low but I had faith in John so I carried on. But I did not lose hope. I will not lose hope. Contrary to the usual, I felt stronger and more determined to finish. Asif, my online mentor and angel too, kept encouraging all the time while hubby provided the much needed pampering with ice packs and kind words. 1:42:27 – 9.3 mi – 11.00/mile

3 weeks to go –
Our running schedule is up in the air and the 20 mile run was reduced to a 10 mile trial by fire! Nowhere are we close to our marathon plan. A week ago, I told Subhash that the best plan is to finish half marathon distance after which he can carry on to the finish line while I fade away into the Roman ruins.  But this Sunday, week 6 post injury, everything changed. The pain vanished and I bounded like before on the treadmill. I think my plantar fasciitis has turned the corner and Subhash knew that we were back in the race together and stronger. I feel more rejuvenated and now, it is FINISH or BE FINISHED! The fastest run in 6 weeks saw my spirits soar. there was no question of doing up to half distance, it was all the way to Rome, nothing but the FINISH line! 40.34 mins – 4.1mi – 9:43/mile

2 weeks to go –

So here I go , totally motivated, my chimp and angel riding high together. I am in no rush but I keep going back to the same question as to why I have continued, despite the pain, tears and setbacks. And I know it is because it has pushed my boundaries to the limits where I have never imagined I could reach. It has made me feel that I can take on tough challenges in life. If I can bear the pain and agony of a marathon, I can do anything that life throws at me. No matter how many times I fall, I know that I will always push ahead because you never give up till you cross the finish line.

I am marathoner and I will be one, once again!

THE ROAD TO ROME IS DEFINITELY SHINING BRIGHT !

 

Grilled Peaches…

Grilled peaches with mascarpone, toasted walnuts and drizzled with honey, on a bed of raspberry coulis 😍

Sounds exotic but is a kid’s recipe indeed. Tasted this a few years ago on a skiing holiday and still vividly remember the play of flavours, ever so exquisitely balanced on my palate. Healthy quick dessert, perfect for a Friday evening !!!👼👼👼
Recipe-
Cut peaches into half, take the stone out and place cut side up on a hot grill till it gets slightly charred.
Stuff the peach with a scoop of mascarpone cheese.
Top it with toasted walnuts.
Drizzle with good quality honey.
Serve with any coulis ( pureed berries)

Pumpkin Vetthukozhumbbu

Kalpa’s Vetthukozhumbbu

There is something very exotic with all our regional names for various dishes we make in India….. one particular name that has fascinated me was the Vetthukozhumbbu ( vettu-kozhumb-bbu ) which is basically a classic Iyer recipe for chilli ( vettal) and tamarind based gravy ( kozhumbu). A regular member of Kalpa Sundar’s kitchen and one of my favourite.
Sharing the recipe below, easy, tangy and yummy….

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Recipe:

Chop pumpkin into chunky pieces.

Heat oil. Add mustard seeds, dried red chillies, curry leaves, sesame seeds, chana Dal , hing and methi powder.

Add pumpkin pieces and salt.

Add tamarind concentrate .

Add a spoon of sambaar powder.

Add jaggery to taste.

Stir well and serve with hot rice or chapati._Q6A1313

Dahi Aloo ( potato in yoghurt gravy)

Imagine cold dark winter evenings, snuggled in a cosy blanket, watching your favourite soap and a steaming hot bowl of  comfort food. And by comfort food, there can only be one name at the top, the mighty potato!!! This dish hardly needs anything other than potatoes and yoghurt…easy and quick to make and soul satisfying to say the least!

_Q6A1308A simple dish that goes straight to the heart….
RECIPE:

Boil and peel potatoes, cut into big chunks.
Heat oil, add mustard seeds, hing, sesame seeds, kadi patta optional ( the mallu gene insists on adding kadhi patta everywhere 😂😂)

Add chilli powder and coriander powder to taste (i usually add a teaspoon full of each)

Add potatoes and stir till it becomes golden brown.

Add yoghurt, salt sugar.

Finally add roasted kasuri methi ( dry fenugreek leaves).

Serve with hot phulka or steamed rice.

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Dal Makhani

Ah, for the love of dal makhani !!

This name, for me, conjures up vivid images of the royalty of Tuli International, Nagpur in the early 90s. Dal Makhani used to be their signature dish and I always longed for that taste ever since I came to this country. This is, again, a very easy recipe. Yes, I have used readymade dal makhani masala ( shock horror!!!) but if the end result reminds me of my childhood favourite dish, who am I to complain 🙂

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INGREDIENTS

3/4 cup urad dal ( bengal gram) soaked for 4 hours

1/4 cup rajma ( kidney beans) soaked for 4 hours

1 onion chopped

1 tin chopped tomatoes

2 tbsp ginger garlic paste

2 tbsp dal makhani masala ( readymade or home made- recipe at the end)

2 tbsp butter

METHOD

Pressure cook the dal and rajma till very very soft. Mash well .

Heat oil in a wok, add butter and stir fry the onions till transcluscent. Add tomato puree.

Add 2 tbsp of Dal makhani masala and stir well.

Add boiling water and bring to a boil. Add salt to taste.

Simmer for 30 mins.

Add a dash of cream.

Garnish with chopped coriander.

Serve with hot parathas or steamed rice.

DAL MAKHANI POWDER

Roast and grind to a fine powder the following ingredients-

1 tsp cumin seeds ( jeera)

3 cloves, 3 green cardamoms, 1 black cardamom ( badi elaichi),1 cinnamon, 1 tsp red chilli powder, 2 pinches nutmeg powder, 1 tsp aamchur, 1 tsp kasuri methi, 1 tsp coriander powder) . Store in a dry tight container.

 

 

 

Chicken in white wine sauce

European cuisine has been the bane of my life! Ask me about any complicated desi food and I can whiff it up in a jiffy. But the thought of even putting together a sandwich fills me with dread. I accidentally made this popular dish ( only 6 steps) and it tastes even better than what you get in the restaurants. The kids were thrilled and soon, both, the dish and me, acquired cult status in the kitchen 🙂

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INGREDIENTS :

Chicken fillets 2 ( whole or cut into chunks)

Mushrooms 2 cups sliced

Onion 1 medium size, chopped

Chicken stock 3 cups

White wine, preferably dry 1 cup

Double cream 1 cup

Basil – few sprigs finely chopped

METHOD :

Heat oil in a non stick pan, add chicken fillets and fry till golden brown.

Pour the stock over it till it is covered, close lid and allow to cook for 30 mins till done.

Heat butter in another pan, saute the onions and mushrooms till soft.

Pour the white wine and allow it to bubble vigorously till it reduces to 2/3rd the amount ( it should be thick and syrupy). Add the strained stock from the cooked chicken into this mixture.

Add the double cream, boil , season with salt and pepper.

Mix the chicken into this sauce and heat it thoroughly till evenly coated.

Sprinkle basil leaves before serving._Q6A1335_Q6A1336

Serve with bread or steamed vegetables.

 

Stuffed Tinda / Indian Squash ( bharle dhemse)

Some recipes are forever! This particular one was my mum in law’s speciality. Aai used to make this with utmost pride and love, never rushing through it. Being raised in a purely non vegetarian household, I never understood her fascination for vegetables and to top it all, this was as bland and harmless as it could be!!! But once i tasted it, I was addicted.

Aai may no longer be with us but she lives in me through the recipes and cooking skills she passed on to me and Deepa tai. We would protest and whinge about it then but now, it’s something I hold dear to my heart.

Thanks to Deepa tai, her basic masala recipes are still intact and I hope , some day, kids, you will make this too…..

Ingredients :

12-15 pieces of tinda ( Indian squash) cut the top and scoop the inside pulp out .

1 large onion finely chopped

Chopped coriander (a lot)

1/2 cup of coarsely ground roasted peanut

1 tbsp of coarsely ground roasted sesame seeds

1 tbsp of roasted dessicated coconut

1 tbsp roasted khus khus (poppy seeds)

1 tsp of red chilli powder

1/2 tsp of haldi

1 tsp of hing

1 tbsp of red masala powder (recipe in blog)

Salt Sugar Curry leaves

Method

Mix all the above ingredients and stuff it in the tinda .

In a pan heat 2-3 tbsp of oil, temper it with mustard seeds, hing, add stuffed tinda, and remaining masala.

Stir. Add 2 tbsp of curd and one cup water, cover and cook till tender.

Butter chicken

Aditi Gupte’s Butter Chicken recipe:
PS: tastes exactly as the restaurant dish!

Ingredients:
Boneless chicken 1kg
Tandoori masala powder 3tbsp
Yoghurt 5 tbsp
Lemon 1

Onions 3, very finely chopped
Ginger garlic paste 3tsp
2 cans chopped tomatoes ( prefer Napolitana tomatoes)
Kaju paste 2tbsp
Kasuri methi 4tbsp roasted and crushed
Kashmiri chilli powder 2tsp
Sugar and salt to taste

1. Wash and marinade the chicken pieces in yoghurt, tandoori masala, red chilli pd, lemon juice and salt. Keep aside for few hours. Bake in the oven at 180* till done.

2. Heat oil in a wok , add onions and ginger garlic paste. Heat till the onions turn transparent.

3. Add the tins of chopped tomatoes and keep stirring over low flame till the mixture thickens and becomes doughy in consistency. This is the main part of the recipe ( the make or break point)!!
It takes time but is worth the effort. This is what gives the restaurant taste.

3. Add kaju paste and water to attain the desired consistency. Sugar and salt to taste.

4. Add some butter ( after all it’s butter chicken 😇) and a dash of cream.

5. Add the baked chicken pieces. Add roasted and crushed kasuri methi at the end.

6. Viola, and it’s ready to serve.

Aai’s garlic chutney

Some memories forever entrenched in our hearts are our treasures indeed. One of them is early morning golden toast with amul butter topped with aai’s garlic chutney.

4 ingredients, 4 minutes

I promise 😍😍

Ingredients and method:

6-8 pods garlic
1 cup grated coconut ( not dessicated)
2-3 tsp Red chilli pd
1 tbsp groundnut powder

Grind all together, store in an air tight container.

The Italian Giro Files : Day 4

Day 4 : “It’s not the mountains we conquer but ourselves”, Edmund Hilary .

Distance 104 km,

Elevation gain 3140 m,

Moving time 7.55 min

Conquering the Italian Dolomites was the dream we dreamt for the last 8 months…. And the day was here!

The ride started as usual with a 5.30am bag drop. There was a eerie stillness in the air during breakfast, as if the riders were about to go to the battle front. And boy, battlefront it definitely was 😊😊.

8 miles into the ride, we came face to face with our first climb, Passo Valles, a 2037 metre climb over 26km …. The route was spectacular, resplendant with gushing waterfalls and pristine emerald green lakes.

The company was varied. Caught up with Milind. Reminiscing of memories from our past from 1997, of experiencing the first snowfall together and long walks with the then chubby toddler Varun took us happily through a few miles. Cruising behind the father son duo Ashutosh – Parth / Sunil – Miheer was equally interesting. They kept pace with each other and encouraged each other to go ahead at times. Moments like these are the cementing blocks of any relationship and it felt beautiful. Watching them reminded me that somewhere in front even Ram and Varun were creating history together. The latter half of the climb was with Vijay, one of my ideal cycling partners….. We climbed slowly and steadily to the beats of music, trying to chat intermittently about life in general but knowing that nothing could distract us from the difficulties ahead.

Soon we reached Passo Valles and after the customary photos etc, the thrilling and knuckle buckling descent started. My music playlist changed to all the soothing numbers and I was in seventh heaven on the loop of Ae Zindagi gale laga le….

Following lunch break, everything changed and soon the climbs started again. The much awaited hair pin loops went on for 30km and soon I realised that everything that I was holding on to dearly in this journey was slipping away from me.

Ram and Varun zoomed past me. Vijay decided to take an extra long break in anticipation of the climb. At the 4th bend, when Parth declared that we had 29 bends in all, Subhash lost it and just charged ahead , disappearing for the rest of the day.

My phone battery soon died down and at that point, I suddenly realised that I was on my own….. The feeling was immense, being surrounded by colossal mountains, the light air closing down heavily upon me, silence so loud that it was deafening. Soon, a new sensation set in, I felt totally disconnected from myself and everything that belonged to me. It was as if I was up in the clouds, watching this lone figure struggling her way up the killer climbs. All I felt was the need to just move on and that’s all I did. A cleansed soul, it was pure and devoid of any emotions…..

But that didn’t last for long. At turn 17, I decided that enough was enough, my mind suddenly connected itself and chided me for my actions. I was not getting any younger, I was not getting any medals or accolades for this, was I? So why was I going thru this pain…..I tried to flag the support van down but they thought I was waving at them and they waved back merrily and went away. The skies opened up after that and as if laughing at me, soaked me to the bone. I took shelter in a nearby hut but it was only turn 20 and I had 8 more km to go. I was in tears, I just wanted to stop, I just wanted to be somewhere warm, but there was no choice but to carry on.

My mind wandered to all those who had left me, to those who were going through either battles in life. My speed was barely recordable and I was stopping after every few metres. At a distance I saw the faint outlines of some of our cyclists and soon enough, Ram and Varun came up. They were such a beautiful sight to see and I immediately announced my decision to stop cycling. Ram cycled for a while with me, and reasoned that if I have done marathons, I should be able to do this easily.

That was my wake up call….. Yes, I was a marathoner, and a proud one at that. How could I give up now?! One thing that the marathons have taught me was never to give up, and so with this renewed vigor, I pumped ahead, the end in sight…..

Alas, a few minutes into my new pumped up avatar, I heard Ram shouting out to the support team that I wanted a break and a lift!!! I went into a total apoplectic shock, refusing velhmently to get into the support van! I had climbed the steepest and most difficult climb of the Giro d’Italia, not to give up in the last 800 m.

A few metres ahead, I could see the happy yellow jersey of Nandu, waiting to push me through the final 500m and I cried out in joy!!! Nandu and me raced to the top, him running and me cycling and soon enough I was reunited with my flock. A blur of green helmet came rushing through and enveloped me into a tight hug, whispering we did it, we did it….. Kalpa!!!! My partner in crime in all these adventures, who savoured each and every breath of the mountain air….

Ram was waiting at the top, super thrilled and excited…..Passo Giau was finally conquered!! 30km of uphill climbing, 2230mt high.

“It’s not the mountains we conquer but ourselves”, Edmund Hilary .

2 cars, 3 days, 1200 miles: A road trip of a lifetime through the land of fire and ice!

 

 

 

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Take a crazy idea, add equally crazy people to it and sometimes it comes to life in the most memorable way possible!

13 girls, all used to the various luxuries in life, decided to take a detour from their usual girlie holiday ( London, Paris, Portugal, Milan) and embarked on an adventurous road trip in none other than Iceland.

We started our planning more than 6 months in advance, dates upon dates, chopped and changed, cars booked, hotels pored upon and routes scanned. Nothing was left to chance. The food department was adamant on packing a rice cooker, soup maker, 300 theplas and innumerable condiments, etc ( talk about garlic smell in iceland!) Thanks to the horror shock of paying a few extra quid for luggage, which was not acceptable to the ‘housewife’ mentality in us, we managed to leave without the rice cooker, upma mix and some snacks ( though someone still sneaked some into their bags).

We reached Reykjavik and soon were whisked away to our car rental company Green Motion who provided us with a 9 seater and a 5 seater. And so we were off.

Followed the plan as was mapped out ( chart below).

ICELAND ITINERARY

The pictures are proof to the wonderful journey ( details of where we stopped and what we saw including fun photos in another post)

36 hours , 1200 miles went by in a flash and soon it was time to leave this magical kingdom.

Secretly chuffed at the prospect of boasting to our men folk about our driving and managing to survive on our own but more than that, carrying with us the memories of a peaceful and stunning adventure.

LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL 🙂

 

 

 

Ammu’s Kadala Prathaman (paayasam )

Onam and Vishu , two of the festivals that I used to wait for eagerly during childhood, not because of the new clothes or puja but because of this heavenly paayasam. I would excitedly hang around my grand mother in the kitchen, fascinated by the strength in her old, distorted fingers as they squeezed the milk out of the coconut, watch unblinkingly as the cashews would turn golden in the hot ghee and drool in sweet anticipation when she would swirl the beautiful, silky concoction at the end. But what has always, always been the most precious memory for me was when she would feed spoonfuls with her own hands, her eyes twinkling and moist hearing my oohs and aahs…..

History now repeats with the same process involving  my mum and my kids.

This is a poor version of the elixir of life that i hope will carry on and be saved in our homes…..

Ingredients:

Chana Dal, 1 small cup cooked 

Sabudana ( sago ), 3tbsp , cooked in water till translucent

Jaggery 2 cups

Coconut , grate and extract milk ( thrice) – or just use a tin of coconut milk, good quality.

Coconut slivers, cashew, raisins- fried in ghee

Cardamom powder

Method:

Mix chana dal, sabudana and jaggery on low flame till it is thick in consistency ( like dosa batter ) . 

You have to keep stirring all the time so that it does not become lumpy. 

Add coconut milk to get the desired consistency and stir for another 5 minutes. 

Add slivers of fried golden coconut , cashews and raisins. 

Add crushed or powdered cardamom to taste.

Serve with a smile 😍😍

The Running Diaries- ”you are tomorrow what you believe today…”

‘’You are tomorrow what you believe today’’.

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I am not a runner; I can’t run for my life; I am not made for running; I have bad knees; I have a family history of arthritis; there is no way I can run; blah blah blah

 

These are just some of the reasons I encounter when I try to persuade friends to run. And believe me, I have tried each and every excuse in the book and more.  The only reason it changed for me was not the dream of becoming a ‘runner’ ( which I I still don’t think I am) nor was it the faint hope of losing weight ( blame it on the genes, are you reading this, mum!). I started running just to prove to myself that there is nothing one can’t achieve once you put your mind to it. Running was the most difficult thing and I had to prove to myself that I had the grit and determination to capture it.

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So armed with a plethora of information ( thank you google ), flanked by an ever so loyal running partner and boosted ( read as – kicked out at regular intervals for training) by an ever loving clan, the running games started! I did everything a first timer did, buy hordes of running apparel ( still the saga of matching socks  carries on 🙂  and magazines ( not as expensive as cycling gear, though ),  bought a fancy garmin ( I love it!!) and acted as if my malayalee heritage had raised me on pasta and sphagetti ( carb overload before tapering!)IMG_6513

I soon discovered that I was accompanied by two friends, both in my head, an angel and the chimp, who loved talking to each other about me, loudly and annoyingly all the time. All my planning and execution of runs, whether they were the failed 2 minute runs or the long 20 mile runs were discussed to the minutest detail, the chimp shooting down every plan and the angel encouraging me to rise above it!

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My RP and I soon joined the Knowle and Dorridge running club ( K&D). Every Wednesday evening, I would set out to run, every Wednesday, in my mind , I would fail. Within a few minutes, I would be nearly lost in the midst of narrow winding roads while my contemporaries would glide ahead. My lungs would fill up with fluid frothing from my mouth, oozing from my nose and out of all sweat pores. I would hop skip and jump from uneven pavement on to the road, only to be honked back to the pavement by an irate driver. I slipped on dry autumn leaves, scratched my elbows along dark walls and grazed my legs along tall brambles and ivy. In fact, I stumbled even when there was nothing to stumble upon!

But we persisted and kept going, knowing that someday we will because we can….

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In a couple of weeks, I became the queen of excuses. The chimp in me had an instant encyclopaedia of excuses ready to whip out even at the thought of the impending run while my angel would gently prise me away from those negative thoughts. Anything passed for an excuse, and in an instant, maternal instincts took priority. I was suddenly the conscientious mum and home maker, wanting the perfectly ironed towels and socks for my family…..really!!!  The lamest excuse was that Romeo was tired and wanted to go back, as if that can ever happen! However by this time, my angel was getting stronger and more vociferous, slamming the chimp back into place.

RP bore the brunt of it all. My chimp made me avoid his calls, my phone would be turned off so that I miss the scheduling messages and one Friday, I even tried to get him into a late night party mode and bribed his wife to keep him in bed for some extra hours in the morning. Alas, nothing worked. 8am sharp, he would be ready, two bananas in hand, knocking on the door and gosh, how I hated him for that! We would start our run, me with a huge scowl on my face, him with his expressionless demeanour.

wp-1490788588746.jpgMany a times, I have felt like turning back when he would be charging ahead, many a times I would curse him for ruining my dream of a perfectly perfect sun kissed morning sipping tea in the garden ( as if that will ever happen!!) and many a time, I blamed him for making me wish the earth would swallow me up whole when confronted by the fresh, immaculately dressed female fatales we would bump into, on their way to the salon or spa.

But we persisted and kept going, knowing that someday we will because we can….

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Soon, spring was around the corner.

Within a month, things were looking better. I could run to the end of my mile long road without turning beet root red and without shooting the snot bullets that I became an expert at. I mastered the art of breathing and could hear the sound of silence. My chimp was happy to rest and my angel flew in front of me, clearing the clouds ahead.

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By the end of 3 months, I was no longer the straggler in the running club. I went into a fit of hysteria when Geoff, our running leader, casually said that I had become a strong runner. I would look forward to the club runs and the chimp no longer needed her excuses diary.

RP and me were a team, once again and we were on a high. The  anger gave way to respect. Respect for bearing with all my demands, for tolerating my tantrums, for accepting my downfalls and for the support without which we wouldn’t have persisted.wp-1490788589687.jpg

We ran fast and furious at times, scaring dogs, toddlers, parents, ducks and whatever came our way. At times, people in mobility scooters zoomed past us but we ran, happily…..we ran in the sun, in the rain and in the snow because we now know that one sentence that holds true: you never feel bad after a run.

I no longer scrutinised myself in the mirror, just plain happy with the confidence I saw smiling back at me. I stopped worrying about size zero or party clothes, my mind was busy planning the attire for the next run. A change that was noticeable was the stance which changed, I was walking head held high, looking ahead into the future, just contented to have conquered my worst fears.


However, what was even better was the post run ‘reflection’ or truth being the slumped and near dead pose on the sofa with the roller behind my head, where the body refuses to move but the mind is buzzing with activity, dreaming and thinking back about the last few hours, of future runs, heaving pizzas, washboard abs, medals, marathons and more marathons….( what the heck, we can always dream, even if it doesn’t come true, we can at least dream the dream!)


Food for thought: persistence is the key, if you can continue for 3 months, you can achieve anything you aim for!

Life begins at the end of the comfort zone…….and I love it!

 

Paris Marathon 2017 , here we come again….

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Motivation, Discipline, Perseverance

#Parismarathon2017 training

‘A marathon is only about 6.2 miles actually, the other 20 miles are just there to reach that point on the day.’ – Sushant Hegde, marathoner

Saturday  4th February 2017

Time taken – 2 hours, 39 mins

Difficulty Level- 5 ( range 1-10)

Positivity score *****

It was a 15 mile target day. 9 weeks to go….

Last night was a Friday night , a typical weekend night with Mexican food and mind blowing wine. And of course, when coupled with Bridget Jones baby on TV, who could get up from the couch….. Slept late and obviously woke up late. Thanks to lack of discipline, I felt like a dough ball in the first half of the run. Slowly and steadily, we picked up pace.

Reaching 13.1 mile mark was not difficult as it was already in the bank while training last week. The remaining 2 miles did stretch and we had to muster all the inner strength to continue.

Arguing with my mind has become a routine. Tossing a question sarcastically, my mind taunts me and challenges me while I reply back by running faster, tightening my core and breathing smoothly. It is this ping pong game that makes the last few miles bearable.

Mind over matter…… That’s all there is to it.

Sharing some nuggets of wisdom which have eluded me for ages….. Still struggle to stick to it 🤔🤔
1. Just run, just get out and run. Doesn’t matter if you have only 20 minutes or an hour or three hours, just run.

2. No late night excesses- I slept late, pigged out on food and drink last night and didn’t fuel well today, so I suffered in the first half 😂😂 ( bowl of cereal gobbled up in a hurry with brufen just before the run, no no )!

3. Make sure you have company for long runs, either a running partner or great music!! They encourage you and help you go ahead. When the going gets tough, the toughies get you going….

4. Start slow. You don’t have to do 5k straightaway. Let your heart beats guide you, not the miles….

5. Just run….

​Varhadi Gola Bhaat 

I have been fortunate to have had two of the best cooks in the world guide me when I entered this amazing world of culinary  heaven.

 On one hand, my mum, a totally and utterly eccentric chef, who could whip up the tastiest of food in an instant for as many people you could think of. But there was never a recipe not any measurement not any reasoning or any  science behind it. Nonetheless I inherited the traits and most of her recipe purely by being there and watching her mesmerised while she threw aromatic spices into sizzling woks of fiery chicken curry, drained with complete abandon perfectly golden discs of pooris and served the most perfect fried fish which would put the most perfect Michelin chef to shame. 

There was a method in her madness ( maybe !)

 My mum in law, on the other hand, was the most scientific chef ever. 

There was a method in her kitchen but no madness. Food didn’t just happen, it was created. An act of discipline and devotion.  She taught me the fine nuances of the art of cooking, why step 1 was important to perfect before step 3, etc. Naturally she made heavenly dishes which we passed on to the next generation. 

Gola bhaat was one such item which was a regular favourite during navaratri festival. It is coupled with chinche chi aamti ( sweet sour tamarind soup) . Quick and easy to make. 

INGREDIENTS
Roasted chana dal, coarsely ground.
Rice
Tamarind water, jaggery.

METHOD 
1.Cook rice in a covered sauce pan.
Meanwhile roast chana Dal 

2.Grind the roasted chana dal coarsely. 

3.Add salt, sugar  dhaniya powder, haldi, mirchi and a bit of jeera powder to taste. Make a firm dough with yoghurt. 

4.Add 1-2 tbsp of hot oil, mix well.
Make firm dumplings with the palm of your hand.

5. Once the rice is half done,  please dumplings on top of the part cooked rice, cover and cook again till the dough balls are well done.

6.Chinche chi aamti ( sweet sour tamarind soup)

Heat tamarind water and jaggery in a saucepan, add salt to taste. 

Heat  butter / ghee, add tadka of jeera, kadi patta and hing.

7. Serve hot with dried red chillies in oil.

Don’t forget to smile 😍😍

Aubergine Sabji  

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Every  Indian state and family has their own secret recipes which they swear by….. It is known by many names ie vaangi bhajee, vayudennengya masala, kathrikai curry, badanaekai, etc etc. These are all perfect and we have all been witness too many duels between varying factions of the fairer sex as to which recipe is the best.

I don’t claim any of those lofty titles, all i know is that this is a variation of my MIL ‘s and mum ‘s recipe and something that has always worked well in our parties.

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Ingredients

Coriander seeds 3tbsp

Jeera 1tbsp

Khus khus 1tbsp

Sesame seeds 1tbsp

Ground nut 2tbsp

Red chillies 4

Dry roast all of the above

Fresh coconut 2tbsp

Onions 2

Ginger garlic paste 2tsp

Cashews 5-10

Salt

Haldi

Grind the roasted spices  with the above ingredients.
Stuff this paste into 10-15 slit aubergines.

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Heat generous amount of oil

Add tadka

Slide the stuffed aubergines into the oil and gently stir.

Add half a cup of water and 2tsp of tamarind paste , sugar and cover.

Cook till nearly done.

Add curry leaves or Coriander leaves at the end.

Serve with hot rotis or rice.

Sharmi’s Mango Curry (Menaskai Mango Gojju)

This is one of the best mango dishes ever. We tasted it for the first time at Sharmila’s place and I was hooked!!! It is an Udipi recipe and goes by the name of Menaskai Mango Gojju. Easy to make and can be stored in the fridge for a few days.

This can be made with raw as well as ripe mangoes.


Ingredients and Method

1tsp methi seeds

1tsp urad dhal

1 tsp jeera seeds

2/3 red dried chilli

Curry leaves

Roast the above with 2tsp of oil

2-3 tsp black sesame seeds , dry roast on low heat.

Grind all these with 2 tsp of fresh grated coconut.

Separately cook raw mango (with skin cut in to pieces ) or pineapple (tinned one) till just firm, add lime size piece of  jaggery , then add the above masala , salt and bring to a boil.

Take it off the flame and serve hot or cold.

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Vaatli Dal- of time past, comfort food galore 

There is a certain nostalgia when it comes to some food. While vada sambar reminds me of our indian coffee house, alu poha is associated with mohan ki tapri and vaatli daal is strongly ingrained with chaitra gauri during gudi padwa ( and the haldi kum kum with it). The freshness and simplicity is amazing and nearly all households have their own version. I have added raw mango here just like aai used to. It can be used as a chutney or sandwich filler too. 

Ingredients-
Chana dal- soaked in water for few hours, coarsely ground 

Raw mango- grated

Oil, mustard, hing, haldi, curry leaves

Salt, sugar

Method-

Heat oil, pop mustard seeds, add hing, haldi and curry leaves.

Add coarsely ground chana dal, cover and cook till the dal is soft and done.

Add grated mango ( fresh coconut optional).

Add salt and sugar to taste.

Thai Cooking Workshop 2016

Thai Cooking Workshop 2016

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Thailand is a place where all your senses come alive…..in all aspects, whether it is the jaw dropping scenery, the people full of mirth and joy or most importantly the lip smackingly delicious food! I have never been a follower of ‘exact’ recipes, so when I witnessed a Thai cooking in action, I realised that this was the one for me…..

As my grandma used to say- you can create magic with just your five senses: taste, sight, feel, smell, sound ….. And it stands true in this workshop too. We marveled at the colourful display of the crunchy cucumber cheese rolls, took in the sinful pleasure of the tongue tingling hot and sweet taste of the spicy tom yum soup, the fresh fragrance of lemon grass and kafir lime leaves intermingling with lime, the silken texture of tofu clashing with the roughness of peanuts in the Massaman curry and the peels of laughter and squeals of delight all around the kitchen ….. Who can’t, but fall in love with cooking!!

Recipes of the Thai workshop as below:

CUCUMBER CHEESE ROLLS

NOTE- please let your guests gently know that this is an Amuse-Bouche, and not to be eaten to fill their tummy (mine pounced on it and devoured it in an instant and ordered another bunch straightaway!!)

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INGREDIENTS:

1 cucumber, sliced longitudinally with mandolin slicer

1 pack Philadelphia cream cheese

Fine chopped red chillies and water cress for garnish

METHOD:

Make long strips of the cucumber with the slicer. Add a dollop of cream cheese to one end and roll into a tube. Stand upright on a platter and garnish with red chillies and watercress.

WATERMELON WITH CRUMBLED FETA CHEESE, LIME AND BALSALMIC VINEGAR

NOTE: this is a crowd pleaser, a visual treat, so please keep several trays prepared.

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Cut watermelon into cubes, arrange on the serving platter. Crumble feta cheese on top. Drizzle lime juice, balsalmic vinegar and mint leaves. the freshness of the mint leaves and tangy lime blends beautifully with the crunchy sweet watermelon….just try it, its magical 🙂

MISHRA’S MAGIC MUSHROOMS 

I always disliked mushrooms till Rashmi made this which blew my non existent socks off…..Quick easy and makes you fall in love with mushrooms again!!!

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INGREDIENTS

Good quality clean mushrooms, stalks removed

1 pack Boursin garlic cheese

Finely chopped garlic, pepper and red chillies

Grated cheddar cheese

Butter melted

Rock salt

METHOD

Clean mushrooms, remove stalk and fill the cups with cheese.

Arrange on a baking tray, drizzle with butter.

Sprinkle grated cheddar cheese, garlic, pepper and red chillies.

Season to taste.

Bake in the oven at 190 degrees till the mushrooms are done.

TURKISH FLATBREAD WITH HUMMUS, POMEGRANATE, LIME JUICE

Okay, not technically Thai, but had to add it to the menu because of my fascination for this quick dish. Guaranteed to disappear even before the plate lands on the table.

INGREDIENTS:

Tomato-garlic flatbread

Hummus

Lemon/lime, pomegranate seeds

Nando’s piri piri sauce

METHOD:

Heat the flat bread in the oven till crispy.

Spread hummus generously over it

Drizzle with spicy Nando’s sauce….carefull not to drool over it!!

Scatter chopped coriander, pomegranate seeds.

Sqeeze fresh lime juice over it.

TEAR AND SHARE!!!

TOM YUM SOUP

Guraranteed addiction, you will be making it every week….

INGREDIENTS:

5-6 lemon grass stalks

12 shallots, halved

2-3 galangal

2 cups coriander and basil chopped

20 cherry tomatoes, other chopped vegetables ( mushrooms, baby corn, mange tout, etc)

3 or more lime

10-15 kafir lime leaves

Siracha sauce

Tom yum paste ( home made below or store bought)

METHOD:

Crush lemon grass, add sliced galangal, ginger, torn kafir lime leaves, coriander/basil leaves. Cover and boil till you prepare other vegetables, add the others.

Add lime juice, siracha sauce and tom yum paste.

Serve hot.

TOM YUM PASTE: Heat little oil, add finely chopped onions, saute. Add tamarind concentrate, palm sugar, fish sauce / shrimp paste ( if you want- it enhances the flavour and does not smell), sliced red chillies, chilli puree, lots of soy sauce. Heat till the mix thickens and adjust the taste according to your choice. I prefer sweet and spicy, henc emore sugar in mine.

CHEAT’S VERSION ( Shhhhh….) : Mix Maggie Tamarind ketchup, sweet chilli ketchup, siraccha sauce, maggi chilli sauce and lots of soy sauce.Place water to boil in a large vessel.

MASSAMUN CURRY:

Lovely clash of flavours and colours…..mughal inspired dish

Remember its all about the paste, peanuts and coconut cream!

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INGREDIENTS

Massamum curry paste ( store bought- MAE PLOY) 4 tbsp appx

Boiled baby potatoes

Mushrooms, baby corn, mange tout, tofu

Roasted and crushed peanuts – 1 cup

Coconut cream- 2 cans

Kafir lime leaves – 8-12

Maggi tamarind sauce- 4 tbsp

Cinnamon, star anise, cloves

Sliced red chillies

METHOD:

Heat little oil, add masamun curry paste and stir in with the boiled baby potatoes.

Add coconut cream , 1 can and mix well. Add rest of the ingredients including spices and mix well.

After 10 mins or when the vegetables are done, add the remaining can of coconut cream, tamarind sauce, peanuts and chopped red chillies.

Garnish with coriander , serve hot.

PAD THAI NOODLES:

Quick, instant noodle dish. Remember the 2,4,6,8 combination for sauce

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INGREDIENTS :

Cooked pad thai noodles- flat rice noodles

Crushed peanuts

Sliced spring onions

Bean sprouts

Bok choi

2 onions sliced

Garlic mince

PAD THAI SAUCE: 2,4,6,8

2= lime

4tbsp- sweet chilli sauce

6tbsp – brown sugar

8tbsp = soy sauce

Red chillies fine chopped

Mix all this with hot water and keep aside.

METHOD:

Heat oil in a wok

Add sliced onions, spring onions, garlic minced, stir

Add eggs and stir well,

Add the noodles, stir

Add the sauce and season to taste

Add bean sprouts, bok choi and peanuts and serve instantly….



Venice

You can never have enough of Venice, I realised after my fourth trip to this jewel of an island. This time, I didn’t want to return and rightly so…..

People ask me about itineraries in Venice, places to see, places to stay, places to eat and all I can say is that the best itinerary in Venice is not to have one at all! It is to experience the sights and smells of Venice, to melt in the shadows of the crumbling houses, to just be in the moment wherever whenever you are……

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Venice, at first sight, is a labyrinthine mess of alleyways, serpentine canals, moss coloured or jade like waterways and small quaint shops with equally small doorways selling priceless glassworks and crystals along side cheap masks with equal gusto. But soon enough, you realise that there is a structure and a pattern to this mess and your eyes are drawn to the artfully peeling paint of the flats above which merge seamlessly into the canal waters and their ever so smooth reflections of the gondolas gliding past. Of course, it does rest for a fleeting moment or so on the sinewy shoulders of the handsome gondola man in his unique striped jersey and hat, but that is a different story.

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Hence, to see Venice in its full glory, we walked away from the hustle and bustle of the heaving and thronging St Mark’s square into the least crowded direction where you can peer into the most intriguing doors, colourful windows. We walked on, narrowly avoiding a football which appeared from thin air, kicked in utmost style by a Messi wannabe, almost instantly followed by a blood curling scream by a big Italian mamma, the boy’s mother, who swore at the boy and apologized to us in equal fervor  before disappearing into the mass of clothes that were hung out to dry from her balcony. Ducking into the nearest cafe, we sipped expresso, chatting happily in our very scant Italian to the locals who were more than gleeful and happy to correct our language. A long long lunch followed at a non descript hole in the wall trattoria with amazing wine as a bonus.

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The moment when time stood still….

BURANO- A PHOTOGRAPHER’S PARADISE

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Waiting for the ferry….

Embarking on a ferry to Burano, I was in seventh heaven. Burano, one of the top places for photography was always on my bucket list and it was due to come alive soon. The village appeared as if some playful kids had splashed different colours, all bold, vivid, stark, over the houses.  Burano was a fishing village and the houses were coloured differently so that businesses were easy to identify for the sailing folks. You can never have enough photos in Burano, that’s for sure. Of course, due to the mishap earlier in Venice, where my camera lens decided to take a tumble in the canal, I was left with no choice but to take pics with my Iphone, but someday I hope to return and hopefully soon. 

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Reflections in Burano
The been there, done that moment

Home, yellow home

Reflections in Burano

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Rays of hope
 

A bygone era, still present
Bold and beautiful
Random reflections Burano
Of course, the signature pose
Old is gold

New is platinum

Some priceless  moments
 

My treasures….
LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL…..